It's just 10 pages long, but House Bill 525 packs a major change to the Teachers' Retirement System Board of Trustees in those 10 pages.
Sponsor Ken Uchurch says the changes will level the playing field when it comes to who makes decisions for TRS. The Republican from Monticello told the House Committee on State Government, "Currently the Kentucky Retirement System Board of Trustees of 11 members. One organization in particular controls the process of nominating seven of those positions, effectively locking out other educators from the very decisions that impact their financial future."
Of the other four people, two are appointed by the Governor, one spot goes to the Kentucky State Treasurer, and another spot goes to the chief state schools official.
"I filed House Bill 525 in an effort to give educators more day in the decisions that impact their own retirement, said Upchurch.
As it reads, House Bill 525 would increase the board to 13 people. The changes would call for the governor to appoint a public accountant to the board.
Then, rather than seven people, eight would be elected. Six of them would be active educators, and two would be retired.
Of the active educators, KEA would only get one spot on the board. The Kentucky School Board's Association, Jefferson County Teachers' Association, Kentucky Association of Professional Educators, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, and the Kentucky Associations of School Superintendents would each have one of its members get a spot on the board.
When it comes to the two retired positions, the Retired Teachers' Association and KEA would each elect a retired person to join the board.
Many lawmakers questioned why the change is even needed. Representative Joe Graviss, a Democrat from Versailles said, "I don't see where the system that we have now needs such a drastic overhaul. It seems to be working. It's got a 75 year history of success."
Representative Patti Minter, a Democrat from Warren County echoed that, saying "This is the best managed board because teachers make things happen. So, my question is, of all the challenges that we face in Kentucky, this doesn't seem to be one of them. This is a solution in search of a problem, so I'm asking why we're even bringing this bill forward when we have a process that works really well and have a pension system that is the best managed and best funded. And I hear of no-one who is teaching who feels excluded from this process except for those who appear to be influenced by a governor who truly wants to pass pension reform."
Supporters of this bill say this will divest control from KEA, allowing other stakeholders to elect board members.
"Currently, one organization has control over the selection process of seven of the 11 board members. What this bill seeks to do is to spread that out across all of the stake holders and give all educators a say in who their elected representatives are on that board," said Upchurch.
KEA represents about a third of all participants in TRS.
Association President Stephanie Winkler says the other two thirds of people aren't kept from running for the board. She explained to the committee, "We have nominated and elected superintendents, principals, and currently, Dr. Lynn Patterson, Representative Minter, to your point, who is not a KEA member. I got a call from higher ed members who pay into TRS, and said could you please consider putting up the nomination of several representatives so that we're represented on the board. I said absolutely."
Winkler says she wonders if this is a spite bill. "I'm not going to assume bad intent. I want to believe that Representative Upchurch would not be, I think that a bill like this, just to get back at a group. I don't think that's very productive. If he truly thinks that there are fixes needed, then I wish he would have come to the people impacted and talked to us about that. So, like I said, I'm not going to assume ill intent, but there are an awful lot of scenarios that are awful coincidental."
House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins spoke against the bill, asking committee members to take the intersession to make changes to this bill.
However, when a vote was taken, Adkins was overruled and the bill passed 11 to 5.
It will now go to the full House.